TCI News

Two switches shut down; FortisTCI assures they were ready in this week’s unexpected power failure

#Providenciales, June 7, 2019 – Turks and Caicos – A series of switch failures is what led to the two power outages of Tuesday June 4 and Wednesday June 5; for some residents it meant more than 24-hours without electricity and for FortisTCI it meant pulling the back-up out of stock. 

FortisTCI’s CEO, Eddinton Powell held a press conference this morning at the headquarter office on Leeward Highway in Providenciales, where media learned that it was failure of one switch and then another which caused the two black outs.

“The first outage began on Tuesday June 4, approximately 8:54 a.m. and service was fully restored to all customers by 10:37 a.m.  This outage was the result of failed electrical equipment at the main substation.  A second outage began on the same day in the late afternoon at approximately 4:52 p.m., following the failure of another critical path high voltage switch on the transmission system to the company’s substations, which serve customers via underground cables.”

Mr. Powell called the latter switch ‘critical path switch’, responsible for dispatching 35 kV of electricity; a high voltage switch which would take more work and a longer time to restore.  It is also the switch which feeds the Grace Bay Substation, which carries electricity to Leeward and Leeward Palms; all three areas were longest without electricity earlier this week.

“You just can’t move those transmission and distribution lines that are connected to that switch.  In effect what we had to end up doing, and this is why it took so long is we had to replace that entire switch. Replacing that switch, programming the new switch, using heavy equipment and cranes to move that switch into place because these switches weigh tons.  You’ve got to bring in specialty cranes to move the switch and then that took time to reconnect all of this transmission and distribution line.”

Mr. Powell confirmed that no part had to be brought in; that foresight on the part of FortisTCI ensured that the company was ready to respond to what was an unexpected technical failure.

“I want to ensure all of our customers that this country has a very good utility, not withstanding the incidents we’ve had,” Mr. Powell also shared that, “In the case of the last outages where our customers were, in some cases, out for 24-hours, we had to replace that entire equipment and we had that equipment in stock.  We did not have to bring that in and that is another indication of how well you plan for these kinds of things because you can have critical equipment in stock for years and it doesn’t move but until you that time when you need it, you need to have it and we had it.”

Public reaction to the prolonged power outage was varied, but comments on social media mainly lambasted the electricity company for the system failure, the inconveniences it was causing and a lag in communication with the general public. 

The CEO apologised, thanked the public for its patience, thanked the team for a job well done and repeated that the Turks and Caicos has a very good utility company in FortisTCI.

Forty staff members worked to restore the electricity, which while off for a full day in Grace Bay impacted households, schools, tourism operations and businesses.

Electricity was restored on June 5, 2019 at 7:46 p.m. “without further incident.”

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